To wrap up marketing, I need to discuss trade shows. I discovered our local trade shows as a member of the South Carroll Business Association (SCBA). The SCBA Expo was held annually in the Spring. I found the pricing reasonable and members got an early bird discount. I decided to try it out to see if it was an effective marketing strategy.
I learned about it too late for 2012 so my first show was the SCBA 2013 Expo. I planned for my banner so it would be ready in time for the show. For my first table, I stole the mantle scarf from my fireplace and purchased a large tablecloth to place under it. I’ve received so many compliments on this retro look that I now use it in all my shows. For my display, I included my business cards, brochures, sample fancy pedigree charts, sample of my work, and old photos. I added a guest sign-in sheet. To encourage people to come to my table, I developed a slide show, running it continuously on my laptop.
Well, we were in a big gym in a local high school, there was not a huge turnout and my table was next to an exit door. I had only a couple of visitors and no one signed my guestbook. Another great learning experience. Afterward, many of the vendors gave me good advice that I took to heart and used in future shows. My budget only allowed one show this year.
While maintaining the basic display, over the years, I added many items suggested by my fellow vendors. The first suggestion I received and implemented was to hold a drawing. Apparently, visitors tend not to sign the guest sign-in sheet but they will fill out entries to win a prize. So now I need to decide what prize to give. I thought about gift cards to restaurants or electric gadgets; but, I finally decided upon a gift certificate for family research. I now award a gift certificate worth three (3) hours of my time to the winner. This has been very popular–this year my big fish bowl was completely filled.
Each successive year added another feature to my display. I supplemented the display with free candy and free company pens, also very popular. I had also learned how to position my table better. It is all in who you know. In 2016 my table was against a well-lit wall and in direct view of the main entrance—right on the traffic path. I have been informed that I need to add balloons to attract visitors to the table. So far, I have held off since I think it would spoil the look, but who knows…
As to whether trade shows are an effective marketing strategy, the jury is still out. I have noticed that in this profession it can take a long time for a lead to develop into a client. I just added a client this year that attended one of my early lectures four years ago.
With this post, my marketing journey ends. My next and final topic, technical, concludes my early trip on what I hope to be an ongoing journey.
See the earlier posts in this series:
Introduction-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 1
Education-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 2
Startup Team-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 3
Business Planning-Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 4
Branding & Networking–Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 5
Lecturing & Volunteering–Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey–Part 6